Though change has run rampant around the Penn men’s cross country team this offseason, at least one source of constancy remains.
Senior George Dickson III is back, looking to improve on his 2011 Academic All-Ivy season.
This year, though, brings a new set of responsibilities for the team’s stalwart.
With former Princeton head coach Steve Dolan now heading the Red and Blue, Dickson is faced with the task of guiding a talented freshman recruiting class to present and future success.
The responsibility of being a team leader is nothing new to Dickson, who spent two years as a team captain during his high school days at Strath Haven in Wallingford, Pa.
However, the Red and Blue squad that Dickson must guide this year is unlike any other in the team’s history.
With Dolan replacing former head coach Blake Boldon this season, a new attitude has swept over the squad, spurred on by an exciting recruiting class, which includes big-time prospects like Thomas Awad and Chuck Shurtleff.
With the hire of Dolan, a proven success in the Ivy League — as evidenced by his five league championships in the past six years — a team that finished dead last at Ivy League Heptagonals last year has been re-energized with a newfound sense of optimism.
Dickson has quickly adjusted to the newfound optimism surrounding the program.
“It’s been surprisingly smooth,” said Dickson on the transition from Boldon to Dolan. “I think everyone’s really excited for coach Dolan to come here, and so far, he’s brought a lot of excitement to the team.”
As much of the attention surrounding the Quakers this season has focused on Dolan’s hire and the long-term future of the program, veteran runners like Dickson and fellow senior Kevin Foy have flown under the radar.
However, Dolan has taken quick notice of Dickson’s talents and commitment to the team.
“Well, I’ve been impressed,” Dolan said. “He brings that great attitude to practice every day and I think he’s a leader by example. He comes ready to work and gives a good effort.”
Dickson’s steadily improving times over the years reflect that attitude, as the 27:13 eight-kilometer races of freshman year have long given way to performances along the lines of his 26:02 8K at Ivy League Heptagonals last season.
Dickson, for his part, is more focused on his position as a veteran team leader than any individual result.
“I think it’s a real special opportunity,” Dickson said. “Seeing myself grow from not really knowing what I’m doing to being a guy that kids are coming to, asking me questions. I kind of like that mentor role.”
The effects of Dickson’s leadership position may already be showing.
On Friday afternoon, Penn ran against La Salle in an unscored 6K meet. Fittingly enough, four of the top five Penn runners were freshmen.
Dickson finished 11th out of the Penn runners but left the meet with something more important than a time on a scoresheet: confidence.
“I’m just going for it,” Dickson said. “It’s my last season, so I’m trying to make definitely the most of it.”